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LEARN ABOUT THE KALIMBA
If you play a kalimba, or if you have enjoyed kalimba music, you can thank some unnamed and unknown African genius from 1000 years ago. But you can also thank a man named Doctor Hugh Tracey. You likely know his name, as it is attached to the Hugh Tracey Kalimba. I had long been puzzled by this, a white guy's name on a traditional African instrument. I have played the kalimba now for 20 years, and probably the first 15 of those years, I had just assumed that this was another case of a white man exploiting traditional non-western culture. But this is far from the truth.
Hugh Tracey was born into a large and notable family. At the age of about five, his father died. Without his father's income, who was a medical doctor, the family could not afford to send Hugh to university like his older siblings, so he was shipped out to Africa to manage his older brother's tobacco farm in Rhodesia in 1929. When he got there, he found an immediate spiritual kinship with the songs he heard the black African farm workers singing. He began to learn these songs, and his interest quickly spread to other African music and musical instruments. Fairly early on in his African tenure, Hugh Tracey was introduced to the mbira. I imagine that the mbira was a truly magical instrument to Hugh, and that his life story was profoundly influenced by hearing it played. This sparked what became his life's mission: to travel about Africa and document the music and the instruments that made that music.
At that time, Hugh probably heard much advice from his colonialist colleagues not to waste his time studying the music of Africa. But there were also those who understood the treasures that he was uncovering and preserving. On several occasions, he obtained some grant funding to travel around Africa and record the music he encountered.